July 05, 2014

John Davidson: Double Zero


"We know 00 isn't your goals against average, so it must be your IQ!"

John Davidson heard that a lot when wore 00 for the New York Rangers in the 1977-78 season.

Yes, that John Davidson. The Hall of Fame broadcaster turned star NHL executive used to play hockey, too, you know. He was a cocky goalie. Hence the choice of 00 - Martin Biron of the Buffalo Sabres is the only other player in NHL history to wear 00.

Davidson actually got the idea from Phil Esposito. When the Rangers acquired the super scorer from the Boston Bruins, Espo wanted his usual number 7 but Rod Gilbert had it in New York. So he decided to wear 77. Double digit numbers and "Nascar numbers" were rare back in those days, so Espo convinced his new goaltender friend to also wear double digits - 00.

"I was a naïve kid, 21 years old at the time," Davidson remembers. "I agreed to do it for him. Phil was the most superstitious player I ever met. In his dressing room stall he had all kinds of stuff hanging in there for good luck. But he wanted someone to help him with the transition to the new number and I was the guy."
Davidson didn't stick with it too long. He switched up to his more familiar number 30 later.

Knee and back injuries derailed Davidson's playing career. The lanky goalie did have a 10 year career, which started in St. Louis when they drafted him 5th overall in 1973 as scouts touted him as the next Glenn Hall. That made Davidson a very intriguing prospect, as goalies were rarely selected so high back then. What makes that so amazing is he actually played left wing until he was 16 years old. Four years later Davidson became the first goalie in NHL history to jump directly to the NHL from junior hockey.

It was a short lived experiment in St. Louis, thanks mainly to knee injuries and a broken leg. The Blues moved him to New York in 1973. He helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup final in 1979 before bowing out to Ken Dryden and the Montreal Canadiens. But a painful back injury would sideline him shortly thereafter.

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